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High streets need theatres (your views, March 7)

The Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, Surrey. Photo: Theatres Trust The Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, Surrey. Photo: Theatres Trust
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Lyn Gardner’s article on the death of the high street struck a chord with us.

A huge town centre redevelopment, conceived 20 years ago in better times, is underway in Farnham. Despite the current decline in retail, the development will riskily increase the number of shops and restaurants in the town.  Demolition of the Redgrave Theatre has just begun. This last act comes within a few days of the publication of the House of Commons local government report on high streets and town centres. The report has been in response to the increase of internet shopping, high business rates and the decline in retail shopping.

The HCLG report concludes: “High streets and town centres can survive, and thrive by 2030 if they adapt” and with “a vision for activity-based community gathering places where retail is a smaller part of a wider range of uses and activities where green space, leisure, arts and culture and health and social care services combine with housing to create a space based on social and community interactions.”

As this commercial development has obliterated all community facilities from the site, the Farnham Theatre Association is asking Waverley Borough and Surrey County Council to make use of the government’s £675 million Future High Street Fund in line with the HCLG’s report. We want to see the theatre replaced following demolition to benefit the town’s economy in the years to come. We will not give up the fight to restore Farnham’s reputation for excellence in theatre.

Anne Cooper
Farnham Theatre Association chairman

Lyn Gardner: What theatre can learn from the death of the high street

Consider health of musicians

What I find, and to borrow from the headline, “shocking” about the Long Read is the apparent disregard for the health and well-being of the viola player and others that are exposed to high levels of sound on a daily basis. Let’s remove the word ‘noise’ and change it to the word ‘sound’, as we associate noise as being something we don’t want to experience, and sometimes it can be the most delightful of sounds that can cause irreparable damage.

This shouldn’t just be about the impact on the industry, but the impact on people’s lives and the duty of the industry to address it.

Remember years ago when we were forced to wear harnesses when working at height, forced to wear steel toe-caps when doing get-ins and outs, forced to put up safety barriers when working on stage? Can you imagine a world without them now? Of course not. These measures are there to protect the individuals and we all feel safer and take it for granted that if you’re doing a certain job you have to wear the relevant PPE. Our hearing, something that cannot be replaced, has been neglected for far too long. Employers, teachers and training establishments have a duty to educate people that hearing is precious and must be treated accordingly. Of course no one wants to wear earplugs, but if they are custom moulded with different filters that reduce sound by the required amount they should, and hopefully will, become as commonplace for the musician as steelies are for stage crew.

I spent 12 years as a stage and production manager, and a couple more programming live music in a small venue. I now have tinnitus and hyperacusis. I can’t tell you exactly what caused it. It crept up on me over the years until the excruciating pain and constant high-pitched squeal that will forever replace silence could no longer be ignored. I am sure that years of being backstage and out front at live concerts are responsible.

I now carry at least three pairs of earplugs with me on a daily basis, each one providing a different level of protection along with noise-cancelling headphones. The earplugs that get the most use reduce everything by about 15db, so I can still hear everything perfectly clearly, but I’m not in as much pain. Earplugs don’t mean you can no longer hear things around you; well-made earplugs control the volume of sound you are exposed to without diminishing the quality of sound that
you hear.

Let’s stop blaming individuals that are speaking up about the irreversible damage caused to their health and how it will devastate the industry, but instead let’s advocate for the need for good hearing protection that will protect the musician and people working in this environment. If we don’t address this, we will continue to ruin the hearing of many talented people within our industry.

Caroline Aston
Via thestage.co.uk

Royal Opera House legal case: the shocking story that could change orchestra pits forever

We don’t need big names

What the producer Michael Linnit ‘really’ means is the star name ensures bankability and high ticket prices in order to turn a profit for investors. I was in London last week and saw Six the Musical. This had no ‘names’, but every actor was a star and sang their hearts out – I would rather pay higher prices to see a show with that much enjoyment and of that calibre than to see a ‘star name’.

Joseph Bottomley
Via Facebook

I have seen a lot of shows without a “star”. In fact, there have been lots of stars among the fabulous casts. The show is about the plot, music, production, as well as a professional cast. The so called “star” often lacks training and can be outshined by the so called “unknown” in the cast who has had the appropriate training.

Caroline Lausare
Via Facebook

Rarely do star actors lack training. They get where they are for a reason and they work in theatre because they love it. In many years, I have seen only one debuting cinema star
fall short.

Nazzarena Labò
Via Facebook

Quotes of the week

Michael Jibson as King George. Photo: Matthew Murphy

“A three-month process of auditions for a life-changing job and you wait, knowing you know you’ve been shortlisted. Today I get the call saying the role is on offer to someone else. This is what makes us actors – we cope with the rejection. Onwards, upwards. Hang in there guys.” Actor Michael Jibson (Twitter)

“I want to acknowledge the best ensemble I’ve ever worked with. I had given up musicals because I’m old and they’re hard. Then Marianne [Elliott, director of Company] called… I can’t tell you how grateful I am that she did.” Actor Patti LuPone (speaking at the WhatsOnStage Awards)

“When you’re an actor, wealth is about choice. I hate talking about class, but the truth is that as an actor you’re only going to be doing some really great work if you can afford to be out of work and take the good stuff. If you can’t, you’re going to be treading quite a different path.” Actor Zawe Ashton (Observer)

“I’m conscious that it’s a very charged and very emotional time and it’s a time that is volatile. I think that theatre can often either benefit or suffer from those moments, partly because you do become a barometer for certain energies and ideas. If you misstep those it’s perilous, but if you exquisitely capture the moment, theatre becomes more charged than ever.” Director Simon Godwin (Guardian)

“Just finished a round of auditions. First calls, recalls, dance call and then recalls again. ACTORS I SALUTE YOU. It’s right but easy to celebrate you when you win awards. Few see the effort, skill and resilience you employ just in the audition room. I thank you.” Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah (Twitter)

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

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